The Colour and Excitement of the Yukon River Quest Start

At noon today, 153 people in 66 canoes and kayaks headed down the choppy Yukon River with a strong tailwind, to start the Yukon River Quest, a 715 km (444 miles) race from Whitehorse to Dawson City. “The Race to the Midnight Sun” is the world’s longest annual canoe and kayak race.

The day started out to be quite lovely, with a light breeze down the river and lots of sun. This photo was shot at The Wharf, one of the anchors of the $43-million Whitehorse Waterfront Revitalization project, designed to re-connect the city with the river that used to be its reason for existing.
The Wharf on the Yukon River at Whitehorse, Yukon
Looking up the river at very early preparations for the start.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
I spent almost 2 hours wandering around among the boats, paddlers and support crews – both the colours and the energy were captivating.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
Strategy is a big part of winning a race like this – or even of finishing it.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
There are paddlers from 13 countries among the 66 teams – the members of this team being from Japan, with a Voyageur canoe. There are also paddlers from Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
One of the final canoes goes to its designated spot on the beach.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
Having a map of the river in front of you isn’t so you don’t get lost, it’s simply a comfort to most people to know where you are.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
I love the design of the race bibs.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
This photo was shot at 11:15, when the stress level was near maxing out for some folks out as all the final adjustments were being made.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
A sense of humour like this is a great tool to carry with you on the river, regardless of the speed you travel at!
Wun-Num-Nut - Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
Derek Greidanus from Okotoks, Alberta, chats with a reporter from local radio station CKRW.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
A wonderful display of colours and shapes.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
This is my adopted team – Brent Coyne from Kelowna, BC and John McDonald from Vancouver. I’ll be meeting them on the riverbank with their truck keys and a couple of cold Yukon beers when they arrive in Dawson 🙂
Team #31,  Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
This is the only home-crafted “classic” canoe in the race – the GoPro camera mounted high should produce some great video 🙂 It’s being paddled by Lukas Stutzer and Alex Buetow from Anchorage. Alex finished this year’s Iditarod sled dog race – an adventurer through and through, apparently!
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
Checking out how some people rig their boats – some go for the clean look, others want everything they might need close to hand.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
With 5 minutes until the start, the banks of the river were nicely filled with people – perhaps 600 in total.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
Philippe Heitz from Basel, Switzerland, and Arthur Sucker from Rorschwihr, Haut Rhin, France, were one of the first teams off the bank.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
The start was very exciting, with dozens of boats launching within a few seconds. About 20 boats launched into the main river current rather than this back channel – they were swept downstream very quickly!
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
And there they go – the next scheduled stop is at Carmacks, about the half-way point, where there’s a mandatory 7-hour stop.
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start
It’s great to be able to see where each team is, thanks to the Spot GPS Messengers that each boat carries. For me, it will make it easy to know when to start driving to Dawson with Brent and John’s truck (probably midday Friday).
Yukon River Quest - 2014 start

Seeing all those people heading off on that Great Adventure makes me even more sure that I need to do that trip again. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 17 years since my son and I did it, in 10 days rather than the 3 or so that most of the racers would prefer. The comment that I made upon returning from our trip, that it “will surely remain one of the most memorable journeys of my life” has been proven to be true – I’ve spent countless hours since then telling people about some of the incredible experiences Steve and I had, and about how life-changing it was. You can read about some of those adventures in the story that I posted in August 1997, Our Time Machine is a Canoe.


Comments

The Colour and Excitement of the Yukon River Quest Start — 4 Comments

  1. Glad to know you have adopted my brother John… we were hoping someone would =)
    Tell him how proud we are of him!!! Everyone in the fam has been tracking his progress and cheering him on.

    Jane

  2. Thanks for taking these photos and being there at the end of the race..we are so proud of John and Brent for this amazing achievement! (John’s big sister)

  3. Pingback: Yukon River Quest Finish in Dawson City: Part 1